Culture Corner with the Editorial Board

Culture Corner with the Editorial Board

Photo Credits: AGGIE FILE

Ed Board’s picks of movies, TV shows, books, podcasts and more

Come the fifth week in the quarter system, most Davis students are drowned in coursework, midterms and most likely, an unhealthy dose of stress. The Editorial Board is right there with you, and we think you deserve a break. A break can be many different things depending on the person, but for us, some form of entertainment usually does the trick. 

Even if all you have time for is a little music while you make lunch, a moment of calm before hitting the books once again can make all the difference. In fact, it has been shown that music can reduce anxiety and improve sleep and memory, all things that boost academic performance. And while the same can’t necessarily be said for binging a couple episodes of your favorite show, taking a break from working helps concentration and productivity. From mindless television to (voluntary) intellectually stimulating content, below are some of our favorite ways to decompress and recharge. 

Anjini Venugopal, Editor-in-Chief

Podcast: “How I Built This with Guy Raz”

Although my family listened to the first season of “Serial” in its entirety on a road trip in 2014, I never really got into podcasts until I came to college. I was raised on a diet of NPR, and that has translated into most of my podcast choices. I try to listen to their morning news briefing “Up First” every day, and I pick episodes of Hidden Brain in efforts to be more knowledgeable about cognitive science. Hands down, my current favorite podcast to listen to is “How I Built This with Guy Raz” (also from NPR). My best friend recommended the podcast to me years ago, but it took a pandemic and hourlong walks every day to actually listen to a full episode. In each episode, Raz speaks to entrepreneurs about the way they developed their businesses, some of their biggest failures and how much of their success comes from luck and hard work (many of his guests say it’s overwhelmingly luck and if I recall correctly at least one has brought up privilege). In an article in The New York Times, Raz said that he’s not “some rah-rah ‘Go capitalism!’ person”; he says his goal is not to glorify money (though sometimes that does come across) but to build a narrative surrounding individuals he selects after months of research and considers to be “generally kind” and “moral and ethical” who treat their employees well. The narratives he builds and conversations he facilitates are compelling—perfect for a long walk, road trip or just a break from schoolwork. I typically choose episodes about companies whose products I use or am interested in using and while I would recommend you do the same, you should definitely check out the Life is Good, La Colombe and Ben & Jerry’s episodes.

Margo Rosenbaum, Managing Editor 

TV Show: “Solar Opposites” 

“Solar Opposites” is a delightfully odd and hilarious sci-fi masterpiece. Co-created by Justin Roiland, one of the creators of “Rick and Morty,” this TV series has a similar animation style, dark humor and extraordinary characters as Roiland’s other show. As explained in the title sequence, “Solar Opposites” tells the story of four aliens who escape right before an asteroid hits Planet Shlorp (their home planet). Terry, Korvo and their two “replicants” (clones of the two adult aliens) crash on Earth, a world that they must “terraform” (presumably colonize with their kind) by using the unexplained powers of their “pet/baby” Pupa. Stuck in suburban America, the aliens become a dysfunctional family who constantly grapple with whether their new or old life is superior. To set it apart from other sitcoms, “Solar Opposites” beautifully flips around the classic nuclear family storyline. Instead of two heterosexual parents, Terry and Korvo are sexless aliens who act more like bantering colleagues than a married couple and Jesse and Yumyulack, the “siblings,” are clones of their parents. In addition, a second storyline of “the wall” carries through the show. Yumyulack shrinks down humans that he doesn’t like, locking them in a multi-level cage in his room. A gruesomely-awesome aspect of the show: Every few episodes turn to “the wall” and viewers get a glimpse of the mini-society created behind the glass. Through satirical commentary on the many wasteful, toxic aspects of American existence, viewers can apply what is discussed in both storylines to their own lives. With two seasons currently, and a third coming soon, I highly recommend “Solar Opposites” on Hulu. 

Sabrina Habchi, Campus News Editor

Movie: “Someone Great” dir. by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (2019)

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I laugh too much, so it should come as no surprise that I usually really like comedies. Despite this, I have seen “Someone Great” more times than I can count. The movie follows the aftermath of the breakup between college sweethearts Jenny and Nate as Jenny’s two best friends, Erin and Blair, help her get through it and move on to the next exciting chapter in her life with seamless transitions to scenes of Jenny and Nate’s relationship. It is heartbreakingly beautiful. It breaks your heart that Jenny and Nate can’t seem to make it work despite the fact that they clearly love one another, but the love Jenny and her best friends have for one another and her prioritization of her success and needs uplifts you at the same time. Beyond the story itself, the movie is an incredible show of diversity and representation: Jennifer Robinson—one of a fraction of women directors in Hollywood—wrote and directed the film, the vast majority of the main and supporting roles are filled with persons of color and Erin’s own relationship with her girlfriend is a significant part of the story. And not to worry, there are still many comedic moments throughout the movie.

Eden Winniford, City News Editor

TV Show: “Maniac”

“Maniac” is a Netflix mini-series about Annie and Owen, two adults facing mental health struggles and uncertain futures, played by Emma Stone and Jonah Hill respectively. It’s very subtly sci-fi, similar to the present-day United States but with a few futuristic additions, like sentient computers and a system of drugs that promise to “cure” any mental health problem. Annie and Owen both take these drugs during a pharmaceutical trial, and what follows are a series of dark, heartbreaking and funny hallucinations that each last about an episode. Stone and Hill try on a variety of personas and accents, from New Jersey suburbanites to fantasy-world elves as they grow closer together and try to process what went wrong in their real lives. I love that it often feels like a rom-com, but that the love shared between Annie and Owen prioritizes true friendship over romance.

Calvin Coffee, Opinion Editor

Book: “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell (2019)

Malcolm Gladwell’s “Talking to Strangers” should be on everyone’s must-read list. Through unparalleled research and engagement, Gladwell explores why our interactions with strangers often go so wrong. From Neville Chamberlain misplacing trust in Hitler to how modern policing in the U.S. has become such a mess, the case studies that Gladwell presents prove how critical our interactions are. Why is alcohol seen as an agent of disinhibition in the U.S. but not in other cultures? How did Fidel Castro evade the FBI for decades? Gladwell answers these questions and dives even deeper; I found myself amazed at how thoroughly and thoughtfully each story was told. I barely have time to read books, if you read one book this year let it be this one—we’re all terrible at interacting with strangers, even if we don’t know it. 

Sophie Dewees, Features Editor 

Book: “To the Bright Edge of the World” by Eowyn Ivey (2016)

Through diary entries and letters, “To the Bright Edge of the World” tells the fictional story of three explorers who brave the uncharted Alaskan wilderness in the winter of 1885. The story follows Col. Allen Forrester who leads a small group up the Wolverine River as well as his wife, Sophie Forrester, who remains at home struggling with the confines of pregnancy. From time to time, the reader also encounters interactions between a museum curator and a modern-day descendent of the Forresters. The story is based on real historical figures: Lt. Henry Allen and a team of explorers, guided by an Ahtna chief, made their way through 1,500 miles of Alaskan wilderness in 1885. In Ivey’s re-imagination of this journey, the men experience luminescent northern lights and sparkling mists that shroud everything from sight. True to its genre of magic realism, there are intriguing, surreal elements that give the story a mythical feel. The characters encounter Native Alaskans who both help and hinder their journey; one of the men marries a woman who is part of the mist, and the group comes across another woman who was married to a man that was secretly an otter. These elements contribute to a fascinating story that draws the reader into another time and place, delving into the beauty of trekking through nature that remains unharmed by human industrialization.

Allie Bailey, Arts & Culture Editor

Movie: “Spirited Away” dir. by Hayao Miyazaki (2001) 

When I was a kid, I remember being enchanted by the eerie, beautiful imagery typical of Studio Ghibli movies, and “Spirited Away” was always my favorite. The film follows Chihiro, a young girl who reluctantly moves to a new town with her parents. While exploring, they cross a tunnel that takes them to a seemingly abandoned market. When Chihiro’s parents greedily take food they find there, she leaves and stumbles upon a bathhouse for spirits. After a young man, Haku, warns her to leave, she returns to find her parents have been transformed into pigs. Chihiro returns to the bathhouse, and starts working there with the help of Haku in order to blend in as she tries to help her parents. There, she meets No-Face, the troubled spirit who adopts others’ personalities by ingesting them, and who terrified me as a child. She encounters plenty of other creative characters along the way, including a many-armed man reminiscent of a spider and an enormous, angry baby. I watched this film recently for the first time since childhood, and as is the case with most child- and adult-friendly movies, I developed an entirely new appreciation for it. Not only did it induce nostalgia from the many times I watched it growing up, but once unnoticed details offered new lessons, connections to the characters and general enjoyment of the exciting and unique storyline. Whether young or old, “Spirited Away” (and any other Miyazaki film) is a must-see. 

Omar Navarro, Sports Editor

Book: “Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty” by Jeff Pearlman

The last year has felt like I’ve been living the same day over and over again. After countless attempts of trying new things to see if they’d work, I found some solace in the last place I would think. When it comes to reading, I used to be into a lot of science fiction growing up but somewhere along the way, I lost the interest in reading. Today, I have once again found that, but this time in biographical sports books. As time passes, I’ve grown a fascination with 1990s-early 2000’s sports superstars, which is why I thoroughly enjoyed Jeff Pearlman’s latest book, “Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty.” Pearlman is no stranger to detailing sports events as well as dynasties. His deep dive into the dynasty Lakers of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal uncovers just how much problems there were between the two stars. It really is a miracle that they won as much as they did, as some of the stories in the book left me shocked. Even though I already know how the book ends or which championships they won, this book lets me travel back in time and see one of the most storied dynasties ever. Whether you know all about it or know nothing at all, this story is definitely one I recommend for all readers to get an insight on just how much it takes to win sometimes. 

Madeleine Payne, Science Editor

Movie: “My Octopus Teacher” dir. by Pippa Ehlrich and James Reed (2020) 

My Octopus Teacher is a friendship and love story within a call to acknowledge the beauty of the earth and protect our planet’s most intelligent creatures. The film footage, taken everyday for a year by a filmmaker and skilled swimmer in South Africa, is a break from the traditional style of nature documentaries depicting short segments of many different animals. Instead, the documentary provides the rare opportunity to observe an octopus’s life from near beginning to end: Key scenes highlight her intelligence and strength, like when she’s fighting for her life while trying to evade the ruthless pyjama sharks, but viewers are also able to witness her more vulnerable moments of inquisitively exploring the world around her and playing with the nearby fishes. Some of my favorite parts of the film are when she’s simply resting, her large eyes peering curiously and cautiously into the world, occasionally directly into the camera. In these moments, her undoubtable strength and beauty transcends the barrier between species, reminding us that all life—human, octopi or other—deserves to be valued and protected.

Written by: The Editorial Board